During an ongoing police incident in Oxford Circus last year, The UK Mail Online published a story that claimed gunshots had been fired and a truck drove into pedestrians.
But, that didn’t happen. A truck hadn’t driven into pedestrians; the Mail had based its reporting on one person’s 10-day-old tweet about a truck (lorry). And despite reports, no shots were fired, the Guardian noted.
About 30 people complained to the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the Nov. 24 article, which was headlined, “BREAKING NEWS: ‘Gunshots fired’ as armed police surround Oxford tube station and shoppers flee ‘after lorry ploughs into pedestrians’.”
The IPSO complaint only focused on the truck allegation; iMediaEthics wrote to IPSO to ask why it didn’t look at the gunshots claim. An IPSO spokesperson said, “As far as I’m aware that was not something people complained about, otherwise it would have been incorporated into the summary complaint.”
Because the story was covering a breaking news event, the Mail argued it was working quickly to get the latest information published and that the truck claim was only published for 7 minutes in its article and for 11 minutes on Twitter. Further, the Mail noted it published a statement that night admitting the mistake and nearly a week later, the Mail published an apology after an internal investigation. iMediaEthics has written to the Mail.
iMediaEthics reported back in November about the Mail’s correction and apology, which read:
“A previous version of this article briefly carried a headline which referred to a witness report that a lorry had hit pedestrians. This inaccurate information was removed seven minutes after the error was spotted internally. We apologise for any distress that this may have caused.”
IPSO noted that even with breaking news stories, news outlets must verify before publication and the police hadn’t given any information about a truck. And, because the tweet the Mail used as evidence was 10 days old, the Mail “failed to take care over the accuracy of the article,” IPSO ruled.
“Although the Committee acknowledged that the reference to a lorry was removed completely from the article and the headline 7 minutes after it was published, these claims were significant, as they mischaracterised the nature of the incident and misrepresented reports from eye-witnesses,” IPSO wrote.
IPSO ruled against the Mail for breaking accuracy guidelines, but because the Mail published a “prompt” correction and apology, outside of publishing the ruling against it, the Mail doesn’t have to do anything to resolve the matter, IPSO said.